If you follow Pagliacci on Twitter or Facebook, chances are, you've seen some of Jason Cheung's marketing handiwork. He currently does the social media for the pizzeria--a company he's worked for since 2000, when he was hired as an associate manager at the Broadway store. The majority of those 12 years, however, were spent as the general manager at the Original Pizzeria (The O.P.) on The Ave.
Photo by Andrew Finn
When Cheung is not earning his dough in the pie world, he's faking it as the drummer and sometimes guitar player of his air band, Airpöcalypse. (He's the dude in the doo-rag in the photo on the left). They were on season five of America's Got Talent and can often be found playing Seattle clubs.
Today, Cheung keeps it real as he sits down with us for this week's Counter Balance.
Tell me about Airpöcalypse. How did it come about?
Airpöcalypse is the greatest air band in America, and possibly the
world galaxy. The concept for Airpöc came to me in 2008 after my second air guitar competition (yes, that exists). I was trying to think of a way to keep playing air guitar in the off season, and like a bolt of lightening, I decided that I needed to form an air band. About a millionth of a second later the name struck me....Airpöcalypse! I called Garth Donald (a.k.a Chuck Mung), who was that year's United States Air Guitar Seattle Regional Champion and asked if he'd be interested. It actually took a fair bit of convincing for him to do it; he had tried forming an air band in college and was booed off the stage at their only performance, so he was hesitant. I finally talked him into it, though. Our "Reign of Air" had begun.
What is your role in the group?
I'm the founder, voice of reason, stern father-figure, and drummair. I usually play the drums with Airpöcalypse, but when I compete, it's air guitar only.
It depends on how I am feeling, but it is usually Air Guitar X. However, Stephen Colbair shows up often as well. Ahh...the many faces of Jason Cheung. A true Renairssance man.
What's been your biggest claim to fame?
Our biggest claim to fame would have to be appearing on America's Got Talent (watch the video). I've never, ever paid closer attention to the Nielsen Ratings in my entire life. We were on the 2010 season of AGT. It was Howie Mandel's first season on the show. We just missed being judged by The Hoff! Bummer!
How did America's Got Talent come about?
I brought up the idea of auditioning to Garth--and again, he was hesitant--but then figured it would be great for a laugh. The other guy that was in Airpöc at the time couldn't do it, so Garth called Tony Cervantes (a.k.a. Tony Tapatio) and asked if he could fill in. The auditions were in Portland and Tony lived there, so that was a plus as well. We got to the Oregon Convention Center around 6:30 the morning of the audition and were there until about 9 that night. We thought we would make the gag reel and had no idea that we would end up making it to the live rounds. Is this a great country or what? We figured that we had zero prospects, but we had hot licks and were born to rock. Guess that showed!
We made the final 48 from the more than 70,000 acts that auditioned.
Well, since Christopher Cross won't let us use "Sailing," I'd have to say our second choice would be anything by Iron Maiden. Third would be Kelly Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone." That song rocks!
Why do you like playing in an air band?
One of the things that I love about air guitar is I can reinvent myself at every show. Maybe I don't feel like donning the mantle of the metal god that is Air Guitar X on a particular night. Great! I unpack my special tear-away suit and boom! The well spoken, exceedingly intelligent and dashingly handsome Stephen Colbair hits the stage.
I got to be a rockstar on national tv and got a major television network to basically fund an eating tour of Los Angeles and Las Vegas for 90 seconds of doing something that I have a stupidly great time at. What's not to love?
Are you returning to the AGT stage?
We haven't heard from AGT since. They had a friend of ours on this season, though--Matt Cornelison (a.k.a Romeo Dance Cheetah) was on last week. Sadly, he did not get voted through. He did, however, get on the Today Show and posted a picture on his Facebook page of a shot of him and Lionel Richie. And who can forget the best part of American Idol this season? Our friend Magic Cyclops stole the show on the Aspen auditions this year. He has the distinction of coming in second place at the most US Air Guitar Regionals. He's number one at being number two!
What happened to your group after AGT aired? Did you blow up?
Blow up? No Way! We added a member, Mahlon Koopman (a.k.a. Whalin' Big Air). We rocked the Seattle Tattoo Convention this year and Garth and Tony are on tour as we speak. We do play a fair number of shows around town, usually at clubs. We're available for weddings and parties. We're on Facebook and airpocalypsenow.com, so we're pretty easy to find.
How do you juggle your job, band and family?
I've got it pretty easy now as far as juggling the three. I've got a very patient wife, I work for a great company that was very understanding about all the time I had to take off with very little explanation (you should have seen the novel-length non-disclosure packet I had to sign for AGT) and understanding bandmates who realize that some nights I have to stay home with my five-year-old. I can't make every show, but I have a great time with my brothairs when I can.
How many times a day do you hear Pagliacci being mispronounced?
I've heard many, many iterations of Pagliacci and have witnessed many heated discussions about it, usually involving a wager. If you want to be totally Italian, it's pai-YAH-chee (three syllables). It's been Americanized a bit to pah-lee-AH-chee, (4 syllables). I think one of our recent crew shirts said it best: "The G is Silent!"